Christian Marriage


(Willem Spaans) #1

Hi all. I live in Canada and as you may know marriage has now been legally defined as a union between any two individuals (rather than between a man and a woman). Additionally marriage is seen as optional by most couples. Many chose to live in common law relationships instead. This has now started to impact the church where I attend. We do have people living in common law relationship as members of our congregation. Now however one of these has been nominated to serve as a deacon. I have raised a concern about this with our elders because I believe that living in common law relationship is not Biblical. My understanding from Gen. 2:24 is that God intended man and woman to live in a one flesh married relationship. Hebrews 13 encourages us to honour marriage relationships and Malachi 2 speaks of a marriage covenant. In Matthews account of the birth of Christ it says that Mary and Joseph were pledged to be married, but that they had not yet “come together” ( that is, has sexual relations) when Mary conceived by the Holy Spirit. The test does talk about Joseph being here husband however. So how do you see this? I look forward to haearing your reflections on both same sex marriage as well as common law marriage and specifically how the church should deal with individuals living within such unions.

(David Cieszynski) #2

Evening Willem,

Unfortunately the situation which you describe will become more common, due to the moral decline in society. In response to your message I have the following points for you to ponder on: -

  1. God intended sex to be within the confines of marriage.
  2. God intended marriage to be between man and a woman.

Based on the above two points the issue of any forms of sex outside of marriage go against God’s will, but for some reason when the media and politicians are in dialogue with Christians they only want to focus on the same sex marriage issue.

We do need to remember though we are not to judge or condemn peoples lifestyle choices, we can see this in Matthew Ch 7 v1-5 and James Ch4 v11-12. We all have sin in our lives and when we judge people who are not followers of Christ to them we are judging their chosen lifestyle and for those who say they are followers in our judgement we will only be hardening their hearts and causing resentment towards Christ. Christ alone can save people from the bondage of sin.

Depending on your personality and relationship with your Church’s leadership you may want to ask them on their thoughts on the following Bible verses (please note I’m not known for my diplomacy skills or tact): -
James Ch3 v1 tells us that anyone in authority will be judged with greater strictness and 2 Timothy Ch4 v3-4 warns us that we need to be on our guard for false teachings and there will be those of us who will only want to ‘hear’ what we want to hear, and in today’s society it is so easy for people to get into social media ‘echo bubbles’ in that they only interact with like minded people, and anyone who doesn’t believe / think the same of them are bigots, racists…

In all of this you need to keep on praying not only for those concerned but for the Church as a whole, no doubt there will be some members of the congregation who will be hurt, confused and have questions.

Over the past few months I’ve had a number of ‘discussions’ on this type of topic on the Lay Reader training course I’m doing, there are a number of liberal Christians who say they believe that God’s intention for marriage is for ‘loving couples’ no matter the sexual orientation. I’m still waiting for them to give me a specific Bible verse on marriage being intended for loving couples even if it’s a same sex marriage. This weekend will be an interesting one as I’m on a diocesan weekend away as part of the course, and one of the sessions is on ‘mutual flourishing’ to be honest I’m struggling to see evidence of this in the CofE at the moment.

If you need a quick and simple ‘half-way’ house response you could try this sentence “It’s not for me to judge your chosen lifestyle, but I believe…”

Please note that my response is not intended to offend anyone, I’m just trying to outline my thoughts on this matter. If I have upset anyone please let me know and how I’ve upset you and I will try and clarify my comments,emphasized text

(Katherine Anderegg) #3

I am in agreement with you, David. The Scriptures are clear on these issues, and as uncomfortable as it makes us, we are called to stand firm, Willem. I Corinthians 5 (entire chapter) and 6:9-20 may be the appropriate biblical model here, starting with the latter and turning to the former only if all else fails. If your pastor and leadership are unable and unwilling to address the sin, you may have some very hard decisions to make about whether or not to remain a part of that body. Jesus’s stern words to the churches discussed in Revelation who had turned a blind eye to sexual sin show that he takes a very dim view of its being ignored. I wish that there were an easier way, Willem, but please know that you and your church will be in my prayers and those of my prayer partners in our women’s group. However the Holy Spirit leads you, you are not alone, brother.

(SeanO) #4

@Willem_Spaans Out of curiosity, was this couple married in the Church but then chose to live legally under common law? Or have they never made vows before God?

(Tim Ramey) #5

@Willem_Spaans, This is an excellent question.

I agree with the replies. I would think that the question should be posed to those who nominated the woman. For that matter, it would be good if the nomination committee then asks the woman that they nominated as to her views on the subject. It might bring out underlying issues that the church needs to address. If the church agrees with you, Willem and feels that the woman does not share their views, I think it would be a tricky matter to have her as a deacon

(Willem Spaans) #6

They have never made vows before God. They are engaged and I understand that they plan to be married sometime in 2019. I am not sure why they are waiting until the. In the meantime they are living together.

(SeanO) #7

@Willem_Spaans Were they living together when they came to know Christ? That might change the situation a bit.

Otherwise, if leadership seems to show little concern for sexual purity either in their words or in their actions, then in my opinion you have to make a tough decision. If the pastor or a majority of elders display a lax attitude toward sexual purity, then maybe it is time to find a Church where the leaders follow Biblical teaching.

The book of Jude, when discussing helping those who have wrong doctrine or encourage / live in sin - says “save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear–hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh”.

If you have the influence to change the direction leadership is headed (as Paul aided in doing in Corinth) or if the leadership is still debating the issue, then maybe you can be part of “snatching them from the fire”. But if not - I would pursue a community that will aid you as you seek to live not for the world but for Christ.

It is my firm conviction that laxness towards sin undermines the Gospel itself and the whole point of the Church is to declare the full Gospel of Christ - take for example Paul’s words in Romans 6 where the Gospel is directly tied to not letting sin reign in the body:

We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

(Rachel Shields) #8

Hi Willem,

With reference to your observation that Joseph is called Mary’s “husband” in Matthew’s gospel, even before they are legally married, I just wanted to mention that this is entirely in keeping with Jewish thought. The Jews took marriage so seriously that the engagement period before marriage was considered just as legally and socially binding as the actual marriage. So when the text refers to Joseph as Mary’s “husband”, it does so because it fully recognises the commitment they had already made to each other in planning to marry. The text heightens the marriage commitment, instead of detracting from it. In understanding the engagement period as a social and legal contract, the writer could even refer to the engaged couple as husband and wife even though they were not yet married.

This certainly can’t be used as a modern day argument that scripture condones living together.

(Willem Spaans) #9

Thanks for sharing these insights Rachel. I agree that the Jewish customs of the day add strength to the marriage commitment and to the need to wait for the one-flesh relationship to be solemized through the covenant of marriage. Sadly that is no longer the prevailing view in our culture, but it ought to be within the Christian community!

(Mark A Parker) #10

About 15 years ago our local association of churches realized that 2 of its members were affirming the alternative lifestyle. I was part of the delegation that represented our church at several association meetings. I will share with you what I reported back to our congregation which is that while homosexuality and same sex marriage was the issue that was being debated and contested, it was merely a symptom. The cause of that symptom that was revealed with both churches was their lack of belief in the authority of Scripture. In researching I discovered that both churches held Scripture as very important and useful but ultimately not authoritative and not completely reliable.
I think the question I would be posing both to the leadership and this couple would be in reference to their view on Scripture as a whole. This conversation is much less likely to be seen as a ‘personal’ attack or that you are judging the person.

(Willem Spaans) #11

Thank you Mark. I believe that focusing on what the scriptures teach on these issues is a good way to move forward, but to do so “with gentleness and respect”.

(Katherine Anderegg) #12

David, I’m wondering where one draws the line between the not judging and maintaining the holiness of the church. In some places, Scripture seems to say not to judge at all (Luke 6:37; Romans 14:10, 13) or at least to be quite certain that your own house is in very good order before you dare to do so (Matthew 7: 1-5; Luke 6:42). On the other hand, in 1 Corinthians 5, Paul scolds the Corinthians for not dealing with the man sleeping with his father’s wife and proceeds to kick him out him until he repents (vv. 3, 5), stating that the Corinthians should already have done so (vv.1-2, 6-7), while in Rev. 2:20 Jesus rebukes the church at Thyatira for tolerating the immorality and false prophecy of Jezebel and her followers.

I’m such a screw up that I’d be uneasy about saying anything to anybody, but clearly there must be some place for judging within the church membership on matters of doctrine, morality and even legal matters (1 Cor. 5:12-13, 6:3).

I’d be very interested in your thoughts on this tough issue.Thanks!

(David Cieszynski) #13

Hi Katherine, thanks for the question. It’s safe to say we’re all messed up people.

For me judging and challenging someone are different actions, when judge we are condemning them as people which will harden their hearts. But challenging someone and their actions should make them stop and think.

Instead of saying you shouldn’t do… We could say ‘why’ are you doing this when in the Bible says…

Hope this helps.

(Hendrik Haueisen) #14

Great discussion.

I don’t have much to add to this but this:
Depending on the situation I find it helpful to think in two spheres. For example I have a friend J. who is engaged and he professes to be a Christian but his fiance does not (or at least I don’t think she does).

In regards to the two spheres then:

  1. Call it the Micro-Sphere - J. and I have a good relationship, we play soccer together, take rides together to and from the games, chat after the games over a beer and so on. I love him as a brother and he knows that if anything, I will try my best to be there for him. J. also seemingly struggles with his relationship with Christ. Previously married and divorced, he has been living together with his fiance for a couple of years and is getting married fairly soon. So at a micro level we are very good friends.
  2. Call it the Macro-Sphere - J. and I often talk about life’s meaningful topics (in part I am witnessing to the rest of the team and J. is always there and involved in the conversation). We have discussed what the Biblical principles for marriage are and also why they may be that way and no other way. So he knows where I stand on principles for life in general.

So then to summarize, he know where I stand on the issue of marriage but J. also knows that he is a good friend and his personal decisions whoever good/bad they might be, won’t change that fact.

Now I understand that this dynamic might be slightly more complicated when it comes to church leadership. But it does appear to me that a church is a family and not a club. Therefore (I am speaking in ideal terms only) the church leadership should seek to have good relationships with each of its members. I am thinking that depending on the size of the congregation, the size of the leadership should increase as well, as to properly "shepherd the flock"and being able to have authentic relationships across the church. In a perfect world the leader(s) who has authentic relationship with that person (in my case J. and I) should be able to clearly communicate the truths of the bible knowing that they will be received with love. And then on the flip side that leader is available so that the person in question can come and discuss these subjects of tension. Obviously J. could still receive my words and by angered and all the rest of it but that is out of my control then.
And finally having that relationship when we communicate the biblical truths from the pulpit our prayer is that people like J. have eyes to see and ears to hear when we make a clear cut on where we stand on a macro level.

Hope this helps.

(Willem Spaans) #15

Thanks for your thoughts on this Hendrix! There is much wisdom there. I will try to reach out to this young couple in friendship and perhaps gain an opportunity to discus the principles of Christian marriage with them.

(Merzamie Clark) #16

Hendrik, thank you for sharing. I think there is definitely something powerful about letting people know that your friendship in general and your love for them in particular will not change because of your personal position on a given issue. I have recently found myself in a similar position but with regards to sexual orientation.

My friend had so candidly shared their struggles with me that, while I was tempted in the moment to keep silent, I ultimately told them my position on the issue - assuring them all the while that our friendship was not shaken. As I explained to my friend, since they had revealed their position/struggle, the least I could do was to share where my concerns and prayers would be coming from, and they seem to understand! While this was not directly about marriage, it really did mean a lot to my friend to not have judgment and condemnation heaped on them that very moment of their mental and spiritual and emotional distress. We never know what people are going through internally.

(Jennifer Judson) #17


I agree that a lot may be gained in getting to understand the couple. How long have they been Christians? What do they understand the covenant of marriage to represent? If they are engaged to be married, is God’s plan for marriage part of that decision? Or, is it purely cultural.

If their plan to marry is so that they will conform with God’s plan for marriage, then they must value the things of God. If they value that, then perhaps they will value the uncompromising Biblical view of leadership (both OT & NT) and agree to wait on joining any leadership roles until they are actually married.

Does your church have any by-laws (or something like that) that address qualifications for leadership positions? As a Methodist we have a our Methodist Book of Discipline that lays out how churches are to conduct themselves. When churches are not complying, then I as a member would have some redress with our bishop to step in and address issues. Is there any hierarchy that you can bring your concerns to?

Also, are there others who feel as you do? I would think if a group approached the leadership that may get better results.

I don’t know the size of your church, but I do know that in small churches it can be very challenging to get people to step up and assume leadership roles. For churches where that is an issue, they have very tough choices to make so that they do not stray from orthodoxy (or orthopraxy) for the sake of practicality.

(Willem Spaans) #18

Thanks to all who commented. You have given me much to.think.snd pray about. I did challenge our elders to.give me a Biblical rationale for permitting an unmarried person who is cohabiting to assume a leadership role in the church. They took some time to study the scriptures and eventually concluded that they had erred. They are however allowing the ordination of the person to the office of deacon to stand. The elders did note in their response that they found no clear guidance in scripture for how a marriage ceremony should be conducted, although they did conclude that marriage is clearly the Biblical norm. They made the statement that even multiple wives seuemed acceptable to God in the Old Testament although not in the New. Any other thoughts on where the Bible teaches (besides the Gen 2:24 reference) that marriage is between one man and one woman?

(David Cieszynski) #19

Evening @Willem_Spaans 1 Timothy Ch3 v2-4 says being married to one woman and 2 Timothy Ch4 v3-4 talks about those who want to hear false doctrine to satisfy their life style. Unfortunately we’re in the middle of a major extension at home and all my commenteries are boxed up so I can’t delve deeper. Also in James Ch3 v1 warns people thinking of becoming teachers / leaders that they / we will be judged more (a very sobering thought).

I know this doesn’t fully answer your question but hopefully it’s good for thought.

Stay strong and faithful.

(Jimmy Sellers) #20

Here are a few verses that might be helpful even though I don’t think that they could be considered proof verse.
The first verse is Paul speaking about the Church as bride of Christ, one husband.

For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy, because I promised you in marriage to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. (2 Co 11:2)

Ibzan from Bethlehem does a one for one match with his daughters and sons in marriage.

He had thirty sons. He gave his thirty daughters away in marriage outside his clan and brought in from outside thirty young women for his sons. (Jdg 12:9)

Here we have God speaking to a faithless people comparing the relationship to that of a marriage were the unfaithful husband is looking for an excuse to rid himself of his faithful wife so that he can chase after another. Again one husband and one wife.

But you ask, “⌊For what reason⌋?” Because Yahweh stands as a witness between you and the wife of your youth, against whom you have been unfaithful, even though she is your marriage partner and ⌊your wife by covenant⌋. (Mal 2:14)

Reading between the lines it would appear that God is blessing a monogamous relationship.

Marriage must be held in honor by all, and the marriage bed be undefiled, because God will judge sexually immoral people and adulterers. (Heb 13:4)

Finally, Mary the Mother of Jesus, promised to one man.

to a virgin legally promised in marriage to a man ⌊named⌋ Joseph of the house of David. And the name of the virgin was Mary. (Lk 1:27)

Hope this is helpful.